Thesis Defense Presentation

I successfully defended my thesis on October 19 and passed without revisions. A copy of the presentation slides can be downloaded here. And a video of the presentation can be seen below. Please email me with any question or comments regarding the defense or this study.

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Share your stories…

This site is the culmination of a year-long study on the revitalization of rust-belt communities using Utica, NY as its case study. The study resulted in a scenario planning process and collection of narratives from residents of the community in the posts below. Please view the scenarios and read their stories. Let me know  your thoughts and ideas by commenting on the posts. If you feel inspired, I invite you to write your own story to share.

You can view and download the final report for this study here:

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Moving Out, If We Can

Author:  Rae & Carl

Forces/Drivers: Brain Drain, Nano-tech Center, Generational Income Disparity

Scenario C

Journal Entry

It hasn’t been an easy few months. Ever since that Nano-tech plant passed over the area, it seems like more and more tech jobs have been leaving. Carl’s company just folded—the worsening local economy means that companies aren’t focusing on their Web presence. He has hopes for finding another local job, but I think that even if he does, he won’t make what he did at the last one. My job doesn’t seem much more secure, and even if it is, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s no promotions in my future—my company is just too small for me to move up.

I think we’re going to be leaving Utica soon. I’ve been looking for jobs elsewhere, and am trying to get him to consider it as well. The only problem is the house; while it hasn’t lost too much value, nothing seems to be selling, since no one is in a position to buy it. With the school next door closed, the St. E’s campus down the street in danger of shutting down, and the general decline of the neighborhood, South Utica isn’t looking as nice as it once was. Thankfully housing prices have been pretty low in Utica for years—we can get by for a while with Carl out of work, but we’ll probably be willing to sell it to whoever makes an offer that covers the rest of the mortgage.

A lot of our friends have already left the area, so it’s not like we’d be moving away from everyone if we did move. Some of our younger friends were fed up with trying to find decent schools for their kids, while some of our older friends decided that even the low cost of living couldn’t keep them here for retirement. They want things to do—entertainment, good food, fun events (and sometimes, nicer weather).

I’m not sure where we’re headed next, but it’ll be anywhere but here as soon as we can find a way out.

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Waiting for an Offer

Author:  Rae & Carl

Forces/Drivers: Brain Drain, Nano-tech Center, Generational Income Disparity

Scenario B

Journal Entry

Well, we did it. The house went on the market today, and we have a few leads on jobs elsewhere. Rachael is growing restless, tired of doing essentially the same job for years, with no real advancement or attempts by her company to keep ahead of the ever-evolving Web field. I’m finally ready to admit that we could be doing better in another area, and some days I’m not sure if my own company is going to stay afloat. I’ve been looking at the possibility of a new job, but there’s not much out there for me unless I want to start my own company. Internet services companies pop up occasionally, only to fail from lack of business. Plus, it seems like every new client we get doesn’t care much about mobile devices or social media—if they even understand what they are. There aren’t many younger people moving into higher positions within companies around here because they’ve all moved away. We thought it might improve when that Nano-tech plant was talking about moving in, but that fell through.

All the efforts at improving the arts and entertainment events and other things to do seem to be falling short lately, as well. Nothing has been pulling people in. Just the other day, the bike club decided to stop running their weekly time trial races during the summer because hardly anyone is coming out to them any longer. The few who do have been doing it for twenty years at this point and are ready to call it quits.

I hope the house sells in a decent amount of time. The housing market isn’t too bad, but it doesn’t seem like many people are looking for a 3-bedroom house these days unless they’re starting a family. The private elementary school next door was a selling point in the past, but with the falling enrollment, they ended up merging it with the high school across town and closing the building.

For now, we’re just waiting on offers and trying to decide where to go.

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Moving on Up

Author:  Rae & Carl

Forces/Drivers: Brain Drain, Nano-tech Center

Scenario A

Journal Entry

I just started in my new position today. A few years ago, I thought we might have to leave Utica if either of us wanted to advance in our careers; there just wasn’t much of a market for our skills beyond entry-level. At least, not if we wanted to be paid a fair wage. Since the new Nano-Tech center opened up, even more business have moved into the area and our small intranet services sector has grown along with it. My company has grown to the point that I can finally put those management skills I learned in college to use.

With all the new jobs, it seems like more graduates from the local colleges are staying in the area. I’m starting to see more young faces at events hosted by the bike club and the quilting club—which is great. For a long time, Carl and I were “the young ones,” Now, if we can just convince them to join the leadership—both boards often express a desire for young blood and new involvement (how many times did I hear that when I first started serving my terms).

I wasn’t sure that we‘d stick around for the long run when we bought the house… maybe 10 years so… but it’s starting to look like Utica may be where we stay.

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Meet Rae & Carl

Rae & Carl have written three Journal Entries addressing the Nano-tech Center,  brain drain and generational income disparity forces in each of the outlined scenarios.

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Utica’s Future in Nanotechnology

Author:  Mark

Forces/Drivers:  Nano-Tech Center, Brain Drain

Scenario A & B

Newspaper Article

In 2009, New York State along with partners and universities announced a plan to bring the nanotechnology industry to central New York.  The plan involved development of two facilities to be built in Albany and Marcy, New York.  New York State partnered with IBM, Intel, and SEMATECH to fund the 225 million dollar project.  The facility in Albany, NY will be responsible for research and development of the nanotechnology “system on a chip” product.  The facility in Marcy, New York will be held at SUNYIT and focus around integration of technologies, testing, and evaluation of the chips.  The development of this state of the art facility has created a huge buzz around the Utica-Rome area, as a potential to re-vitalize the area that took a huge hit when many Radio Frequency electronic jobs left the area back in 1990s and early 2000s.  The question on whether the project will spark a re-vitalization of economic growth or have no significant impact on the declining economic trends has yet to be answered.

The nanotechnology project’s Marcy facility development could be the spark that the Utica-Rome area has been looking for since the Griffiss Air Force Base downsized its footprint in the area and many other technology companies closed their doors.  The Mohawk Valley (MV) Edge group owns a 400-acre property across from the land on SUNYIT’s campus where the nanotechnology buildings are being built.  The MVEdge group has been attempting to attract business partners (like chip suppliers and other major nanotechnology contractors).  A number of companies have started to make a presence known already with Indium Corporation, Valutek, and nfrastructure investing in positions at the SUNYIT location.  If MVEdge were successful in bringing other business partners into the area, would provide a strong foundation for a new technology face in the area.  The Griffiss Business Park could provide a strong location for additional business development, with a lot of space available and the Oneida County airport utilizing the runways and hangers left available after the Air Force downsize. The Air Force still has a footprint in Rome, NY with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) still residing on the base.  The AFRL could also become a strong business partner for the nanotechnology center, if appropriate, which could also attract major defense contractors back to this area.  As part of the project a curriculum is being developed at SUNYIT and SUNY Albany to help educate young professionals on nanotechnology and help them obtain a job after they graduate.  The success of this technology center would help to keep local youth in the area, something that the Utica has been suffering from for an extended period of time.  If the nanotechnology center is able to attract business to area, young professionals from outside the area might also be interested in moving to the central NY region. The development of these facilities and potentially new facilities of other interested businesses would also help the local construction businesses as well.  Many of them would see a spike in business and the potential for hiring new employees with skillsets. Local schools will also see a spike in jobs with more teachers being required to meet in the influx of family members to nanotechnology workers.

The nanotechnology center could also just fall into an isolated technology business where it holds it’s own but does not attract any other interest from the nanotechnology community.  If other businesses fail to become interested in having a close proximity then a small subset of jobs would have been created but not enough to grow the area and stop the export of young, talented professionals. Economic Development Departments in the Utica-Rome area would be left to determine other opportunities to grow the area but an excellent opportunity would have been wasted. There could be major delays in the process of developing the nanotechnology centers, such as funding cuts, construction delays, or technology roadmap alterations (the interest in nanotechnology subsides due to other technology development). With the economic climate being as dreary as it is, many businesses are not dedicating funds to expansion or new development.  Nothing is a sure thing in this economy and businesses could decide that there are higher priorities and decide to back out of interest in the nanotechnology center. If the nanotechnology center were to be halted and/or cut from future development, that would cost between 400-500 immediate impact jobs and would crush the chances of drawing other nanotechnology style businesses into the area.  Young, talented nanotechnology professionals would be forced to search other locations for jobs.  Economic developers would be left scrambling in an attempt to figure out how else to spark economic growth in the area.

Any number of paths can be taken with the future of the nanotechnology center project.  While all indicators point towards a successful development of the center and surrounding environment, nothing is ever guaranteed.  While the future remains uncertain, the development of the nanotechnology project has certain created a lot of positive buzz around a community that has been suffering for years.  The nanotechnology project has provided a positive path forward, now it is up to the local community to make sure the path is traveled.  Once known as the “RF Valley”, the Utica-Rome area is working overtime to show that it has everything it takes to be the “Nano Valley” of the future.

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